No, the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival wasn’t entirely about sustainable organic local consumption. The city’s inaugural event also featured plenty of educational programming on April 16 and 17, including a seminar starring Paul “The Beeman” Cronshaw, who explained the importance of bees and their edible byproducts.
Cronshow is a high school teacher by day, well, until 2 p.m., when he changes suits. He promoted having other people tend hives, but as he said, “We’re looking for not one person carrying one hive, we’re looking for armies of insect pollinators,” adding, “Without bees, we’d just be eating grains and gruel.” Along with bees, bats and hummingbirds are also pollinators.
Cronshaw went on to explain the different roles in a beehive, including air conditioner bees, trash bees, nurse bees, mortician bees and of course Queen bees. Each hive hosts on Queen, which usually lives for 3-4 years and mates with drones that die after they mate. She lays 2000 eggs per day. Fertilized, it becomes a worker. Unfertilized, it becomes a drone. The gestation period is 16 days for a worker and 21 days per drone.
As Cronshaw pointed out, “Three pounds of bees is $100 on the open market,” so if you find a hive, you can save money, and even earn money, by calling a beekeepeer. Throw them into a box, “throw them under a hive and you’re started.”
“If you become a beekeeper, you become a botanist,” says Cronshaw, who’s become a master of local bee diet, including lavender, sumac and chapparral. Yes, the type of plant that the bee pollinates varies the flavor of the resulting honey.
Although honey is technically “bee vomit,” Cronshaw put a more positive spin on it, calling it “liquid gold” and hyping its versatility. “You can trade it – I like to trade it for eggs – you can sell it, you can put it on wounds, it heals much faster.”
Somebody brought up Colony Collapse Disorder, aka “Bee AIDS,” but Cronshaw said the issue isn’t really affecting Santa Barbara, because “stress and diet” is fine in what amounts to bee paradise.
If you’re looking to host your own hive and live in California, Dadant, Mann and >Los Angeles Honey Co. are the places to get starter kits. It’s about $200 for hive tool, suit, smoker and box with 10 sheets. If you’re in Santa Barbara, or just want to learn about beekeeping while you’re in Santa Barbara, Cronshaw hosts basic beekeeping classes at Fairview Gardens.
To finish his presentation, Cronshaw signed off with a related tag line: “Bee well, bee happy.”
Fun Fact: Bees focus on the white light of the eyes, just like revolutionary American colonists at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Given that, rid yourself of bees using Cronshaw’s simple advice: “If you see a bee that starts to buzz you, look down and turn away.”